Critical Context

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Ezra Pound remains one of the original generation of writers in English who created the modernist movement in literature, a generation including Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford, E.M. Forster, and T.S. Eliot in Great Britain, and Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Eugene O’Neill, and William Faulkner in the United States. This movement was a kind of renaissance: an attempt to redefine the whole tradition of Western culture by reexamination of various periods of the European past as well as by study of various non-European cultures—Muslim, Oriental, African, and pre-Columbian American—in order to root modern European life in a broader, deeper human awareness. For example, James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) finds a Homeric mythic context for a day in 1904 in Dublin, Ireland. Similarly, The Cantos, Pound’s lifework, mixes such heroes of American history as Thomas Jefferson and John and John Quincy Adams with Odysseus, Helen of Troy, and other figures from Greek mythology as well as medieval and Renaissance historical princes and poets and Chinese sages. As he said in a statement that would become famous, Pound wanted to “make it new.” Hence, in the case of The Women of Trachis, he rejects nineteenth century dramatic realism by returning to classical myth and translating an ancient play into English for a modern American audience. His concession to his ancient source is to keep an archaic...

(The entire section is 407 words.)